When sushi chef Chris Kinjo opened MF Buckhead in Atlanta in 2007 with his brother, Alex, the restaurant was a swift success.
The hometown daily -- the Atlanta Journal-Constitution -- gave it a five-star review (but good luck finding it on the Journal-Constitution's Web site, easily one of the worst I've ever seen) and even Creative Loafing's Cliff Bostock was swayed by the place, writing that MF Buckhead was "a testament to the brilliant style and hospitality of Alex and Chris Kinjo, who have opened the restaurant after scoring hits with MF Sushi and Nam in Midtown."
John Kessler, food critic for the Journal-Constitution, took his readers on a whirlwind tour through one of Kinjo's breathtaking, $300-a-person omakase meals in a 2009 blog post, raving over such dishes as "kawahagi (thread-sail filefish), served in kimojoyu, a sauce made by blending its own liver with soy sauce and seasonings" and "small, whole octopus whose "head" is filled with roe that pops in the mouth." Kinjo's omakase quickly became famous not only for its unusual dishes, but for the price: The Journal-Constitution named it the "most expensive meal in Atlanta."
Even Bon Appétit was wowed by Kinjo's skills, naming MF Buckhead the sixth best sushi restaurant in America -- ahead of Texas's own Uchi -- in 2009, with Andrew Knowlton citing the "26-seat sushi bar, an omakase (chef's choice) room, and three private dining rooms" as just a few of the intimate details that made MF Buckhead so special.
But five years later, the bloom was off the rose and MF Buckhead closed.
"It was a difficult decision," Sa Kinjo, cousin to brothers Chris and Alex Kinjo, told John Kessler at the Journal-Constitution on the eve of MF Buckhead's last dinner service in February 2012. "We had filed Chapter 11 and had hoped to work through this, but a judge has just signed the papers on Chapter 7 for a full liquidation."
And although the Kinjo brothers indicated that they would reopen MF Buckhead in a smaller space, that never came to pass. A few short months later, Tomorrow's News Today - Atlanta was reporting that "sources say the Kinjos are no longer in Georgia and are instead (planning to open) in Houston, Texas."
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Their sources were accurate, as it turns out, because Chris Kinjo has been busily -- if quietly -- working to open a brand-new sushi restaurant along Westheimer in the Galleria area, which he's calling MF Sushi (also confusingly referred to as MF Izakaya on the restaurant's Web site).
MF Sushi, located next door to Nazar's at Westheimer and Fountainview, is billing itself as "sushi tapas and lounge" (cue groans over the increasing and increasingly nonsensical application of the word "tapas" in restaurants) and "elite escape." And although the menu section of its Web site is still under construction, MF Izakaya says that it plans to offer "flown-in Japanese fish to almost-unattainable sake."
Our own source says that Kinjo "still has his talents/passion and is excited to open in a low profile but nicely done location," and God knows that we're certainly excited to check it out. But in spite of Kinjo's considerable talent, it remains to be seen whether Houston can (or will) support another high-end sushi restaurant with the likes of Uchi, Kata Robata, Katsuya by Starck and others already dominating the raw fish scene.
MF Sushi is scheduled to open this week.